Below is a transcript of Quentin Skinner interviewed by Nigel Warburton for the podcast Philosophy Bites. The introduction is by David Edmonds. You may use this transcript for personal research but not for any commercial purpose.
Interview © Quentin Skinner, 2007.
DE: If humans lived in a state of nature – in other words a condition in which there was no political organization, no political power – there would be catastrophic war and anarchy. At least according to Thomas Hobbes. The fame of Hobbes, who was writing in the context of turmoil and civil war in England, rests mainly on Leviathan, his book about the relationship between the citizen and the state. Hobbes argued that we should cede the power to protect us to a mighty sovereign. A leading authority – probably the leading authority – on the life and political theory of Thomas Hobbes is the Cambridge professor Quentin Skinner.
NW: Quentin Skinner welcome to Philosophy Bites
QS: Well very nice to talk to you
NW: Now the topic we want to talk to you about today is Hobbes’ theory of the state. How would you characterize Hobbes’ Leviathan, his great work of 1651?
QS: Well, I think it is a theory of the state, essentially. And the title of the book points to that. Leviathan is the name of the state. The state is the generic idea. But Leviathan as Hobbes likes to put it in a sexual metaphor is engendered, it’s brought into being. So there is an act of christening. And the name of the state is Leviathan and that’s why it’s the name of the book